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Episode 2 – Opening a New School

January 25, 2023 | Season: 1 | Episode: 2 | 37 minutes

February 9, 2023 — HCPSS High School #13 is Now Guilford Park High School

Today’s episode is about the prepatory work in place to open HCPSS High School #13. Joining Dr. Martirano today will be the school’s principal, Joshua Wasilewski and the assistant principal, Adrienne Williams.

Principal Wasilewski has been with the Howard County Public School System for 21 years and was named HCPSS Principal of the Year in 2019. He’s served as a teacher, assistant principal, and as a principal at multiple schools before being named principal of High School #13 in July 2022.

Assistant Principal Williams has been in education for 30 years and has been an assistant principal of four HCPSS high schools before becoming High School #13’s assistant principal.

We hope you enjoy this conversation about preparing to open a new school.

← Additional episodes of Inside HCPSS


  • Joshua Wasilewski
    Principal, Guilford Park High School
  • Adrienne Williams
    Assistant, Principal Guilford Park High School



Narrator: Welcome to the Inside HCPSS podcast, a podcast produced by the Howard County Public School System centered around conversations with HCPSS Superintendent, Dr. Michael J. Martirano.

Today’s episode is about the prepatory work in place to open HCPSS High School #13. Joining Dr. Martirano today will be the school’s principal, Joshua Wasilewski and the assistant principal, Adrienne Williams.

Principal Wasilewski has been with the Howard County Public School System for 21 years and was named HCPSS Principal of the Year in 2019. He’s served as a teacher, assistant principal, and as a principal at multiple schools before being named principal of High School #13 in July 2022.

Assistant Principal Williams has been in education for 30 years and has been an assistant principal of four HCPSS high schools before becoming High School #13’s assistant principal.

At the time of this episode’s recording, High School #13 is still going through our community naming process with its official name expected to be finalized in the first half of February. As that process is reaching its conclusion, construction of the building still continues apace. As of January, the school building is approximately 80% complete and is on track to be ready by August 2023.

We hope you enjoy this conversation about preparing to open a new school.

Dr. Martirano: Greetings, everybody. This is Dr. Michael Martirano, superintendent of schools for Howard County. Today, I have the wonderful opportunity to welcome our administrators from High School #13, Josh and Adrienne, who are part of this podcast today to talk about the excitement associated with the opening of our next high school, High School #13. And we’re so excited about that. Good to see you, Josh and Adrienne. How are you today?

Adrienne: Good. How are you?

Josh: Doing Great.

Dr. Martirano: Good. Well, I’m doing fantastic. Always am. Always create that positive energy throughout the school system. Lots of good things happening within our school system, but specifically want to talk about High School #13. But before we get into the details of the actual school itself, let’s talk a little bit about both of you. We want the community to get to know both of you as the founding administrators, the first administrators of the school, and to get to know you, and how you’re going to focus the community on what needs to happen regarding opening the school. So, Josh, tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

Josh: Well, actually, I am from Pennsylvania, outside Allentown. Grew up there, and both my parents were teachers.

Dr. Martirano: Okay.

Josh: So, growing up, I was around education pretty much my whole life, and ended up in Maryland after graduating from college, actually was on Ocean City Beach Patrol in Maryland for about 13 years. And so, my wife was from Maryland and she was on Patrol as well. And that’s what got me to Maryland. So, I interviewed in Howard County and been here ever since. And so, started out my teaching career at Mayfield Woods Middle School and worked my way through to get my master’s degree to become administrator, because I really wanted to impact our students on a different level.

Dr. Martirano: Yeah.

Josh: And that was something that I have never regretted. Absolutely love the role of administrator. And had opportunity to be assistant principal in multiple middle schools. And principal at Mary Hill to start off my first principalship, and then principal at Long Reach for six years. And now, I’m so happy to be part of High School 13 as a principal.

Dr. Martirano: And it’s an exciting opportunity. You’ve had a wonderful career. And I’m also aware of your Beach Patrol work, and I think we want the community to understand that. My son was also an Ocean City Beach Patrol member. And the skills that were developed with that is very transferrable in many ways in terms of leadership for the work you’re doing today.

Josh: Very. And the interesting piece was, the first time I learned about vision was through our captain on the Beach Patrol, because we were talking about the vision of the Patrol, and understanding the qualities of leader, like leading by example, building trust with your teams, having integrity, character, all those things. Plus, learning how to deal with emergencies. Being 18 years old, and being responsible for people’s lives, you definitely build that character really fast.

Dr. Martirano: A great leader, Butch Arbin, good friend of mine as well, in charge of the Ocean City Beach Patrol, but all those transferable skills. Adrienne, the same thing with you. I mean, you’re another wonderful administrator within our school system. And tell us a little bit about your background.

Adrienne: So, I grew up right down the street in Olney, Maryland. I went to Sherwood High School, again, down the street. And I started my college career at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia.

Dr. Martirano: Good.

Adrienne: I got my Master’s degree from Bowie State University. I had started teaching in PG at Laurel High School.

Dr. Martirano: Yes.

Adrienne: I think it was like right before you.

Dr. Martirano: Yeah.

Adrienne: I was there. And taught there a few years, and then I started teaching at Long Reach High School. I was actually part of the opening staff, which is kind of exciting being on this end, opening High School #13. So, I did a little teaching at Long Reach, and then I became an administrator and I was at Wilde Lake. And then I went back to Long Reach as an administrator. Went to Atholton. And I think I skipped something. River Hill was right before Atholton. And then, I am now at High School #13. And I’m so excited. I was very excited when Justin and Pat told me.

Dr. Martirano: Yeah. Well, those are big days when you get selected for these positions. And Adrienne, what I can say about you is, you are just such a wonderful ray of sunshine all the time.

Adrienne: Thank you.

Dr. Martirano: You’re always so positive and you have a wonderful smile. And I’ve watched you interact with your students in your school, and they just respond so well to your personal touch. And the same thing with you as well, Josh. I mean, the connections that you both have with young people is essential. As you’re thinking about now, all of your focus is on opening the school and those ingredients that are essential for opening the school. So, you’ve both alluded to the fact of when you were appointed to this position, lots of time has now been devoted to preparing for the opening. Give me a sense of your thoughts of where you’re spending your time, and what you’re doing to prepare for the opening. Although that may seem far away, it’s gonna be like tomorrow when that school’s gonna open.

Josh: In fact, Adrienne has a countdown of days.

Dr. Martirano: Okay. All right.

Josh: And she reminds me, even though I don’t have to think about it, because we’re definitely…we’re living it. I think Adrienne, myself, and Cindy, who’s part of our team, she’s a principal secretary, we are in communication, I almost feel like 24/7.

Dr. Martirano: Right.

Josh: And first of all, the opportunity is amazing, is a once-in-a-lifetime, once-in-a-career opportunity to be able part of opening a new school. But the energy that we’re putting in, because we want to make sure we build our community and school the right way. And what we mean by that is, this is an amazing facility. And starting in July, we actually start consulting really fast with the architect, with the builder, with school construction, and really getting into a granular level about decisions. And making sure that they are in line with our vision of having not just an amazing space, but a space that emphasizes collaboration in community. That is huge.

So, even to a point where we’re discussing where flags are being installed, the flag poles. I mean, we’re at that level going classroom by classroom. Ordering furniture is another piece. Obviously, you have to have desks and chairs. But there’s other furniture out there that is conducive to developing that community, that sense of even like relaxation. Like we spend a lot of time in the media center furniture. And we collaborated with Melissa Daggett, who oversees media centers and had her input on, “Okay, give us a 21st century library that focuses not just on, obviously we need books, but just collaboration and a space for our students to be at.”

And when you walk in, you see that welcoming vibe from the furniture, and from the spaces that we have. And so we’re really working hard to collaborate with each of our departments. So, we just finished a walkthrough today. And so, we’ve been doing walkthroughs with all the curricular areas, getting their input on structural spaces and what we should get for our schools. And so, a lot of energy in construction. I have to tell you, at first, they started talking about FF&E. And I was like, “What is that?” I was almost embarrassed to ask.

Dr. Martirano: Tell us what it is.

Josh: Right. And so finally at one of our meetings, because we meet frequently, they’re like, “It’s fixtures, furniture and equipment.” And I’m like, “Oh, that makes sense. How would you know?”

Dr. Martirano: Of course another acronym for education.

Josh: Another acronym. And just even understanding the drawings.

Dr. Martirano: Right. Yeah.

Josh: That’s a skill that they don’t teach you in graduate school. Right.

Dr. Martirano: Of course not.

Josh: We’re putting a lot of energy and we’re dedicated because we know this is such an important step for our community.

Dr. Martirano: Absolutely. So you say you’re learning a lot. I can tell by all the… I mean, there’s a lot. When we talked about you becoming the principal, I said, “This is an energizing opportunity.” I’ve had that opportunity to open two new schools and there’s just so much that goes into it. Adrienne, build on that a little bit, what he was saying.

Adrienne: So, as he was saying, a lot of the details that we thought we would be involved in, it’s so much more than that. It’s building a space, it’s building a campus for all of our students. Even today, we met with our Special Ed ITLs and the reading specialists and the occupational therapists. So, it’s not even about just the academics, but it’s making sure all of our students are included. Making sure we have all the apparatus for everybody to learn, and making sure that the vision that you have for success for our students is, you know, upon our students that are going to be at High School #13. Even though it’s only gonna be the 9th and 10th graders, we wanna make sure that they are afforded everything that every other high school is going to get at our school. And I’m very excited about doing it. And there’s only 250 days until the first day.

Josh: So we’re counting down.

Adrienne: Yeah.

Dr. Martirano: I mean, absolutely. It will go by quickly. You know, that’s just the rhythm of the school year and the inertia moves us forward in terms of the new school as well. But you alluded to the fact that we have already gone through a very engaging process with our community, with our board of education, where we’ve established the attendance zones for the school. And that’s a big step forward because now you know who your community of learners will be. And you’ve also mentioned that it’ll be for 9th and 10th grade for the first year. What I want you to focus on now is, how you’re gonna build that community. Recognizing that this school has never existed. There’s no history there. The school is absolutely beautiful. I can’t wait for all of our residents to see it. But as we welcome our students, talk about how you’re building that community already.

Josh: Well, we were so excited once the decision was made. Like, we knew the date was coming. And then it’s, “Okay, now we have our community, now we can start doing the work that we enjoy.” And so, the first piece of it is, we actually right away scheduled meet and greets, and starting to just interact and answer questions from those who are coming to our school. So, we held two of them recently, one at the Elkridge Library, and then one at the Ridgely’s Run Community Center. And those are primarily where areas are, just to get the sense to meet our students and families. And because there’s a lot of questions out there. And so, the first piece is making sure they understand who we are, right, and a little bit about what we’re about, and really starting to engage and answer questions.

We’ve gotten a lot of questions so far. And they’re great ones. Like, “Will you have sports?” And of course, we will. But it’s just making sure we’re… Change is exciting but it also can be challenging, right. And so, we started there. We also have visited our middle school PTAs so far to get to meet them, and again, answer the questions. Because along with a community, you also have parent volunteer groups. And so, really starting to establish like, “Hey, look, you know, the community that we are going to have, you’re gonna have input on. We really want your input.”

So, we need to start thinking about how we want to start off as our PTSA if we’re gonna do boosters. So, start engaging that piece of it as well. The fun stuff. And that’s fun. So we’ve had so much fun. It’s exhausting because you’re tired, you know, you’re working, 12, 14-hour days. But the fun part is meeting families, right. Even more fun and exciting is being able to engage our students. And so what we are going to do is starting in the New Year, we’ve also met with our students in middle school, but we’re gonna start asking, “What is it that you want from High School 13?”

Dr. Martirano: Right.

Josh: And that’s a question that’s gonna be to our community. It’s gonna be a question that’s going to our students. And they’re gonna be a little bit different because 9th grade students are coming into high school, and then we have our 10th grade students coming from another high school. And we’re very cognizant of that fact that you have more changes. So we want to hear from them, how can we make your 10th grade experience… How can you build upon that? What do you need for us? What can we provide you to help? And honestly, those will be some of our questions we ask…or some of the answers we’re gonna provide to our teachers. We’re gonna say, “Hey, our students are really interested in these clubs, are interested in this piece.” And when we start asking teachers who wanna come to High School 13, we’re gonna actually build that in. “This is what our students want. Is this a community that you would like to join us with?” So, a lot of engagement so far, and there’s more to come.

Dr. Martirano: And I always talk about the most effective learning occurs within community. And how do we go about that is by listening to our community and listening to our customers. I always talk to our students about lifting up the student voice. So as you’re building your community for effective learning, the significance of reaching out to your community and hearing from them. Because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, that school only opens one time, and it’s $150 million of taxpayer dollars, beautiful facility. But what occurs on the inside is most significant. So, build on that, Adrienne, if you would, what Josh was talking about, how you’re going about that.

Adrienne: In terms of our meet and greets and going to visit the different schools has definitely been rewarding. The student questions, we…I guess, pre-game before we go in there and trying to anticipate some of the questions. But some of the questions that the students have asked have even been down to the branding. Like, one student wanted to know, are we gonna be using Under Armuor or Nike? And we both looked at each other, and that’s definitely something that we hadn’t even thought of. However, we have thought about our academic piece in terms of Project Lead the Way, or our dance program, or even in theater, or our academies. And we definitely want student input to make sure that those programs that we already have built-in are robust.

We want to make sure that students have an opportunity, and we want to make sure that they’re given the opportunity, and that they know that they will be had at our school. So, having the conversations with the students has been definitely valuable. We’ve gone in, I guess, formally when we do our meet and greet, and then we’ve also visited the schools on occasion where we weren’t necessarily I guess scheduled after school. Like they were during school hours, so we meet the students in their space during the academic time, and that has been valuable.

They come up to us and ask us all kinds of questions that have been, you know, valuable for us because we take them back. And if we don’t know the answer, we definitely get back. We’ve had one-on-one conversations with students who aren’t sure because they have an option. There’s the exemption process. And we’ve met with the parents, we’ve met with students to try to give them an objective, you know, I guess, vision of what’s going to happen. And then so they can have an educated choice whether they’re going to stay at their school or come to High School13.

So, we are aware of the rising 9th graders to come, but even more so the 10th graders that are gonna be there because we know that that’s gonna be difficult. They were at a middle school, then they went to a high school, and now they’re coming to our high school. So, we definitely have some things for them planned, our crest. I mean, there’s things in the building that we have that we’ve held off for those special students. And I guess I shouldn’t say that, but the 10th graders we know definitely have another transition. It’s one more transition they probably didn’t bank on. So, having that in place helps us plan for them to come in August.

Josh: And so to even add to that, the reason we’ve reached out and we’ve been really collaborative with our middle school feeders, right.

Dr. Martirano: Essential.

Josh: Essential. And that’s visiting schools as well as our PTSAs and Meet and Greets. The reason we haven’t done that in high school yet is we have to wait for the exemption process to play out.

Dr. Martirano: Sure.

Josh: Right. And so once that exemption process plays out, we will be meeting with our high schools, and we will be definitely engaging with our 10th graders as well. One of the most exciting things, all of it’s exciting, is we actually have to pick our mascot. That’s a big deal.

Dr. Martirano: So, I’m gonna stop you there, because I wanna make this fun, you know, for everybody. So, I’m gonna lead right into that. You’ve just given me a nice hook to go into. So, let’s see how your creative juices are going a little bit. You know, that is a big deal. Right now, naming the school is front and center, and maybe by the time this airs, the name of the school will have emerged. The selection of our, you know, attendance area and who our students will be is huge. The continued progress. But then the identification, the branding, you’ve used that word, Adrienne. Let’s talk a little bit about the mascot because that’s an exciting thing. But I wanna see how you’re thinking about that. So, I’m gonna throw out some options to you. Say, for example, if the choice of the school mascot was a penguin, a sloth, or a sea urchin, what would be your choice and why? This gives me a peek into your psyche about how you approach this.

Adrienne: Definitely not a sloth.

Dr. Martirano: Okay, good.

Adrienne: So let’s X that out right now. Maybe the penguin, I don’t know. That’s just…

Dr. Martirano: Yeah.

Adrienne: Those are the only three you’re gonna give us?

Dr. Martirano: That’s the only three. I mean, this is fun. I mean, I’m just throwing those out just to give you… Why would you pick a penguin?

Adrienne: I guess I’d pick a penguin because I’m not gonna pick the other two. But penguin is somewhat cute, and I guess there’s not a lot of detail in it actually. So, if I look at it in terms of what you would put on a school uniform, because that’s what you have to look at when you’re actually picking out one, because we’re not gonna use those three, I hope. But you look at, you know, the color scheme, what it could look like, hopefully. I’m thinking very quickly, like, would people tease you about a particular name?

Dr. Martirano: That’s what I’m trying to get at, exactly.

Adrienne: I don’t think that penguin would be mean, and is cute and fuzzy and people have them like, as a stuffed animal. I don’t know.

Dr. Martirano: And they’re reliable.

Josh: They are.

Adrienne: Yeah. I don’t know if they’re reliable.

Dr. Martirano: But when you think about, you know, these three examples, which obviously I’m just using this for illustrative purposes, but those are the way we have to think. You wouldn’t want to think about a sloth because it’s slow. And, you know, how would you think about that as a mascot, and as you’re thinking about your activities and identification with branding? Josh, what do you think, you know, your thoughts?

Josh: You know, I have to tell you that while I think sloths are cute, Adrienne, no joke, your holiday card I’m giving you today, has a sloth on it.

Dr. Martirano: Oh, my goodness.

Adrienne: No.

Josh: I am not kidding.

Dr. Martirano: That was not done on purpose.

Josh: That’s too funny. Sorry about that.

Adrienne: Okay.

Josh: Yeah. But I would say penguin too, and here’s why. So, our colors are like a bright green, darker blue. Right. And I think when I think of those colors, I almost think of aquatic-ish in a way. So I’ll maybe go with the penguin because they’re both on land and the sea. And you underestimate the penguin. I mean, people do. They’re fast in the water.

Dr. Martirano: Exactly.

Josh: They’re fast in the water.

Dr. Martirano: A disclaimer to anybody who’s listening, those are not the choices.

Josh: They’re not the choices.

Dr. Martirano: Those are just for illustrative purposes to say how we go about selecting mascots, and the significance of making certain that we are using one that can be embraced by the entire community, being very sensitive to all of our different cultures and community members. And then, something that can identify and propel the school system forward, such as school colors and the mascot and the naming. All those things create community. So, let’s get back to that sense of academic community is what I really want to focus on now is, as you think about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as we open this school, you get the opportunity to define that academic program within the confines of our school system, curriculum, and our expectations, etc. Have you thought about some uniqueness to the possibility of some signature programs, some programs to help our students transition as we want to make certain that all children are graduating, college and career ready, achieving the goals of our curriculum in this high performing school system? Josh, what do you think about that?

Josh: I’ll tell you what, that’s something that we talk about all the time. We want, I want, when students walk across that stage, any door that they wanna go through, I want it opened. Right. And so, it’s yes, having that credential, but also having the opportunity to enter the workforce, begin into military service, entering college, already have training going into an apprenticeship. All those things are so huge for us. We talk about college and career-ready. And so, it starts at the 9th grade and 10th grade level. And so, we’ve already started identifying, started looking about jumpstart programs where students can start getting dual credit, and really have worked with that office, and we don’t have details yet, but it can be, but we’re really working towards making sure we provide unique opportunities specifically for our students at High School 13. And so that’s something that we’re really excited about as well. And Adrienne, I know we’ve talked a lot about the scheduling piece of it, so I’ll share that one with you. Go ahead.

Adrienne: So, we’ve talked about, and I mentioned earlier about the academies, we have the in-house academies, and then we also have the ARL. So, as we sit, and just to kind of make sure you guys have a vision of how we sit, we sit in a room together, me, Cindy, and Josh. And we are face-to-face, eye-to-eye all day. So, what we’re talking about today, we talk about all day every day. So when we talk about the academics, and especially now getting into scheduling, we look at the academies. And Josh came from Long Reach. There is the academy that was at…

Dr. Martirano: The Reach Academy, which we’re so proud of.

Adrienne: The Reach Academy, which we will do something similar. We haven’t exactly figured out what that will look like, but that’s something similar as we approach the beginning of school. But definitely, harnessing in the things that already the school system has developed. So, for instance, a lot of students are interested in going into, let’s say, becoming a professional athlete. Well, that’s really great, but you know what you can do when you are a professional athlete, if that’s your mindset? You can look at food nutrition, you can look at anatomy and physiology, you can look at strength and conditioning. You can look at all the classes that are already there and make your own academy, for instance.

And using that, and going into that particular field, having some knowledge base. Okay? So, it’s just not the pieces that we have that are already there and already funneled into, it’s just making your own and making sure when you graduate, you have the tools in order to be successful in what you wanna do. Not necessarily something that somebody else wants, but you to have choices. And for me, it’s very important for students to have choices.

Dr. Martirano: So you’re being very thoughtful and deliberate about that.

Adrienne: Very.

Dr. Martirano: And you have that level of intentionality to be able to develop a program that now really embodies the total curriculum of the school system combined with the engagement of our strategic call to action. And then looking at the blueprint for Maryland as another opportunity to really make this a model school as we think about the implementation. So, I’m so glad to hear that level of engagement that’s happening in your development for our students. But I want to continue to come back around, circle back around on the topic of community engagement, an opportunity to be very innovative and creative with your outreach. And I would like for both of you, as we begin to wrap this segment up, I’d like for you to really emphasize to our community the significance of the community engagement and partnerships in your successes opening the school. Go ahead, Josh.

Josh: If you think about a school, one of the most important pieces is that community is engaged and part of it. And I don’t want to understate that. I know when I was a high school student, the reason why I succeeded was because of, I was engaged in stuff I cared about. I knew staff cared about me. I knew that teachers who were my favorite teachers knew two things. One, they were excellent in what they did. But two, they had that relationship with me. And so, forming those relationships, not just with staff and student, but also with our parents and community members, is part of a school. I envision High School #13 to be a community hub where not only that it’s open for night, for evening events, but we really want to have a place where our community can come together and support our students in the success of their career path wherever they want to go.

Another component that I really think about is making sure we emphasize what equity is. And how that also is in line with community and having that sense. And so, it’s something that is one of the things we also talk about a lot, but it’s such a huge opportunity to develop that sense of community and care. And that’s why the minute we had our school community established in a way where we knew who was coming, that’s where you wanna start reaching out, and hearing the perspectives of all those that we work with and serve. We can’t lead unless we have those relationships and learn from what our stakeholders want from High School #13.

Dr. Martirano: And it represents the embodiment of our school system in our community that every child who enters our door has the expectation of being all that they can be. And that those goals and expectations of believing every child can and will learn have to be at the core of everything in which you’re doing. Adrienne, continue to build on that.

Adrienne: So, I think something that you said earlier, right before Josh answered, was the key component. It’s a partnership. And with the partnerships, I think we started by doing the meet and greet, we have another one scheduled in January, are very important. But it’s also not only those three things, it’s moving forward. So yes, we will have the meet and greet, but we’re also sending out surveys for people to have their input. Exactly, what do people need from us? We are going to be a school that services our community, our students, and it starts with all of us. It’s not only the educators, it’ll be me, Josh, and then, you know, ITLs and other staff members. But it also involves, you know, the community surrounding us. We have, I think it’s called Columbia Junction or Annapolis Junction, that’s the shopping center that’s right on the other side of the school, bringing them in and making sure the quarry. We’ve actually visited there, and they talked about having field trips.

So, it’s our entire community that is going to help this school be the best school that we can make it. So, it’s just not the two of us or the three of us, it’s everybody chipping in, telling us what they need and making sure that we’re able to provide that. That is our job and that is our mission to make sure that that happens. And we’ve been given a great opportunity, as you said, we only get to open these doors once. And I think that the three of us, and including Cindy, we are doing a fabulous job right now. And we continue to, you know, listen to the input, we continue to listen to you, and Justin, and Pat, that are giving us some input, I guess, from behind the scenes, making sure all of that happens.

Josh: You know, I’ll tell you that it’s amazing to think about that our students will be ones that start to establish those traditions.

Dr. Martirano: Exactly.

Josh: Right? So you have 9th and 10th graders. We don’t have our juniors or seniors, but I’m just like, “What about opportunity?” If you’re a marching band, you know marching band has traditions.

Dr. Martirano: Yeah.

Josh: We’re relying on our 10th graders as our leaders, and some 9th graders too. Okay, what do you want to have from marching band? Where do you want to go? Where do you want play? Like, we actually can start developing that. Like how cool…

Dr. Martirano: It’s the ownership and the branding as you’ve said.

Josh: It’s the ownership. And so you have that. And parents, you know, a lot of times you say in schools, and this is the way it is, this is the way we’ve always done it. Well, we don’t have that. We can do how we think is best for our students in our music program, in our athletics, dance, performing arts. All those amazing things, we’re going to establish. And that is a pretty cool opportunity. And I know what I want in high school is students to have the academic enrichment. Right?

Dr. Martirano: Right.

Josh: We wanna meet students where they are. That’s why equity is so important, but we also want our students to enjoy their time there.

Dr. Martirano: Exactly.

Josh: And that is the key. And I think we’re really interested in doing that. We’re gonna give you that academic. We’re gonna meet you where you are. But we’re also gonna make sure that you enjoy your experience and start developing those traditions. Like, I’m so excited about that.

Dr. Martirano: Well, and we talked earlier when I visited your office, and the significance of that history and creating a time capsule, you know, working with your students and your PTAs and community groups, because everybody’s gonna say, “What was that first year book like? What was that first, you know, selection of the mascot?” All those things become part of building community. And I’m so excited because I lived in the community for four years right off of Vollmerhausen Road in the townhouse development of Aspenwood. And I’m so excited for the community in terms of the community engagement, the number of people in the community who have been so essential in bringing this forward. And there’s just that level of energy that we want to continue to capitalize on with those synergistic relationships.

So, I could talk to you all day about this, and we will continue the conversation in another episode, but I’m gonna end with this, you know, as we sort of come full circle, and we did the introduction of both of you and your values. Why did you select education as your profession? Tell me that. Let’s end with that to get to know you just a little bit more. And what drives you today in terms of that selection? Let’s start with you, Adrienne. Let’s go with you first.

Adrienne: What brought me to education? Well, I initially did not start in education. I actually did a year of research at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which is in Gaithersburg. And I hated it. And I think I hated it because I think I always wanted to be in education. When I was playing… I’m an only child, so I essentially played by myself in the basement. I would make ditto sheets.

Dr. Martirano: The mimeograph machine. Bring that back.

Adrienne: I’m like dating myself here. But I used to make these dittos for my fake friends that were there. So I would do that when I was younger. And then also, my mother’s friends would come over and all of them were educators in the D.C. public schools. And they would sit and they would talk, and they were just like the best women possible. They were well put together. They were very articulate. They knew people. Like, they knew people that I just dreamed of. And they were just such good role models. And my mom wasn’t an educator. She was a homemaker, so she stayed at home. But just being around them, I wanted to be like them. And then I would go visit different schools with them on occasion, and the students loved them. And they carried themselves in a way that was just so positive. And other people looked up to them. And I think I just wanted to be just like them. And they were much older than my mom. They were all like 10 or 15 years older than her. But that was for me.

Dr. Martirano: I love how you describe them. I’ve got an image in my head of just what you’re talking about.

Adrienne: Yeah. So, they were like my aunties.

Dr. Martirano: Yeah.

Adrienne: Like, culturally, they were just like women who, you know, help me become who I am. And honestly, I thought that that’s what I was gonna be, and that’s what I aspire to be. So, I want to be that role model for other young women to look at. My degree is in math.

Dr. Martirano: Yeah.

Adrienne: So, it’s not in education. And that was very important to my family, my father in particular, that my degree was in a science. So, I was able to accomplish that and did the research and kind of checked that off the box for him. But then deep down inside, it was definitely just more of the role model and making sure that, you know, there’s somebody else that can be something and I will help them do it.

Dr. Martirano: That’s wonderful. And, again, I said at the beginning, I’ve watched you in action with the students, and our students really identify with you, and you have that energy and your connections with them, which is so essential. Josh, build from that.

Josh: Well, like I said earlier, both my parents were teachers, and I remember at a young age wanting to help my mom grade papers. Like, who’d have thought? Right? And I remember at a young age, there are times when my mom would take me to her school, Nitschmann Middle School in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Dr. Martirano: There you go.

Josh: And I just saw my mom in action, saw how she related with students, saw how they looked up to her, saw the dedication it takes. I remember her making phone calls at night to parents. I remember that, right. We didn’t have cell phones. I remember at all, phone call at night. And my dad transitioned from working in a corporate to also a teacher at a high school. And just seeing their interactions with students. And as I was in high school, we went to different high schools, I would’ve have… I was the athlete in high school. And then, so I’d have students come up to me from their school and say, “I just love your dad. Let me just share about what your dad did for me.” And I wanted to be able to give that to students. I wanted that opportunity to just have those relationships, but also teach them, and make an impact in someone’s life.

And as much as I saw from my parents, I saw the profound impact that it had. And I also saw the emotionality, like how hard it is, right. And so as I became a teacher, I love that. I still miss teaching, but the shift for me to become principal was, okay, I want to impact students on a greater level. I want to make sure I make change to impact as many students as I possibly could. And that was the drive to become an administrator and principal. And, you know, my mom retired, what, five or six years ago? It was 40 years, pretty much to the same school. And so, you know, that was definitely something that she said, “Josh”, while I was thinking about. She’s like, “You know, there’s pros and cons to both.” But she definitely saw that I wanted to lead. And that’s how I shifted to becoming a principal.

Dr. Martirano: Wonderful. Joshua Wasilewski, principal of High School #13, Adrienne Williams, assistant principal of High School #13, thank you for joining me today. And to our community, we are so fortunate to have these two fine leaders opening this brand new school, which is so significant for our community. All the best, and we’ll continue our engagement as we continue to provide the very best for all the students in Howard County.

Narrator: And thank you for joining us and listening to this podcast episode. Stay tuned to future episodes this season where we’ll continue to discuss topics related to the school system and our terrific students and staff.

To learn more about HS13, visit

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